Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why You Should Become a Winter Biker

An alternative response to the Trump presidency: become a winter biker.

Why you should become a winter biker.

1. It's fun. You get to ride your bike in the snow and on top of the ice. Everyday you go back to being a kid.

2. It's fast. Many days when the weather is ugly and the roads are a mess and cars are slipping, sliding, and clogging up the roads you can pass them with a smile as you pedal past them.

3. Parking is a breeze. Parking lots may be full, street parking may be dismal but parking a bike in the winter is no worry. But if all the bike spots are taken then just shove your bike in the snow and put a sign on it that says, "Please do not steal this bike because if you do I will be forced to pray that you have uncontrollable diarrhea and I dont want to do that." That should keep one refraining from taking your bike.

4. You do not have to warm up your bike. It can be 40 below no big deal your bike is ready to go as soon as you mount up and start pedaling. Added bonus you do not have to worry about polluting the environment by idling your automobile.

5. You do not have to scrape or deice your bike. Again, 40 below and everything else is covered in frost - big deal. Hop on your bike and start pedaling, no deicing, no scraping, no nothing, instant riding.

6. It's a workout. When the streets are a mess and the ice and the snow and the sand and the salt are as thick as oatmeal it is a workout to keep you and your bike vertical. The energy and muscles involved in this workout cannot be duplicated by any core plan or machine at the local fitness center.

7. Instant warm-up. I play basketball one day a week, when I pedal up I arrive at the gym warmed up and ready to go. No hamstring pulls and sometimes I even make my first shot!

8. You realize the cold aint really that cold. 10 below looks cold when you run from your house to the car but when you bike in 10 below you realize it really aint that cold. In fact, after biking on 10 below day you realize that 10 above is actually pretty warm balmy.

9. Sights. You will see things you cannot see while driving: owls swooping down in front of you, kids playing in the snow, 1000s of lost gloves and mittens. Sounds: the silence of snow, the singing bush (there is a bush on 40th st that sings b/c of the 100s of chickadees that hang out there), ice cracking.

10. Mental/Emotional Health: It is guaranteed that everyday the new president will do something to make you want to pull your hair out with frustration and make you want to scream and kick and cuss. While those are proper outlets for your emotions why not pedal the emotions out instead? I find that a nice bike ride when I am mad or anxious can assuage my troubled soul. I find that after a bike ride I am in a better place to talk and listen to those I disagree with. The last thing we need is more division. We need to love the fear out of each other and it is hard to love when your heart is clamored with frustration, anxiety, and hate. AND by riding your bike you will have more energy for the fight ahead! With a free and light heart you can keep marching, keep resisting, keep reaching out, keep challenging, keep dreaming, keep imagining, keep on keeping on...

Pedal on...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Three Short Winter Biking Stories

1.  Surprise.
While checking out at the local co-op, the Friendship Store - how can you not love that name? - the cashier asked me if I rode my bike.  I said I did, thinking for sure this would be lead to one of those you're nuts conversations.  But no.  Instead she asked, "Do you have one of our bicycle reward cards?"  I quickly responded in a dumbfounded manner, " I had no idea they existed."  To the 15 people who read my blog: Did you all know about this?  Each time you ride your bike to the Seward Co-op they punch a hole in your reward card, fill it up and then you're card is entered for a $50 drawing.  Just for riding your bike to the grocery store.

What if churches did this?  Ride your bike and receive a free blessing, extra communion, enjoy the worship service relaxing in the steaming hot baptismal water, 10% discount on your tithe...

2.  Excuse Me
Last week I parked my bike at the library and walked up to Kowalskis (another grocery store) to pick up a few things.  It was bitter cold day so I was dressed in my black pants (just a thin pair of wind blocking pants) and my black ALTA jacket (i've never been there but i have a friend who owns a ski shop there) and my black balaclava (a face covering mask).  As I walked away from the cashier a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Excuse me, are you the manager?"  I replied, "No, but thanks for the compliment.  I do not work here."

For the record Kowalski workers wear black pants and shirts, so I'm willing to give the woman some credit.  And yes, it is cold in Minnesota and different folk bundle up in different ways but when did grocery store managers start wearing face covering masks?

3.  The Existential Question
This morning in the muck of snow and grit and slush I pedaled north on 4th avenue.  On the corner a mom talked on her cell phone while her pre-K child waited for her bus.  As I approached I smiled at young girl and said good morning.  The young girl in her furry hooded jacket looked me in the eyes and with tears in her eyes and snot running down her nose and her hands in her pockets asked me the ancient unanswerable question that has puzzled theologians and philosophers and poets and physicians and teachers and writers since beginning of time: WHY?

Winter Biking, you gotta love it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: Year in Reading

Every year I say, "This is going to be the year I read 60 books".  I start off like gang busters then come summer my reading slows down to a crawl.  I try to make up for lost time in the Fall then Advent says, "No way brother".  Nevertheless this year I did get to 46, which was a good number for me.  I need to figure a way to count newspapers, journals and magazines too.  I take the Star Tribune, 7 days; New York Times M-F; The Christian Century; Sojourners; The Nation; Mother Jones; The New York Review of Books; The Atlantic; and Image.

Here is the list with intermittent commentary.

1.  The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal.  (Love her books)
2.  Steeped in the Holy: Preaching as Spiritual Practice by Raewynne J. Whitley
3.  The River Why by David James Duncan (top 10 book of 2016).
4.  Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben
5.  Something Is About to Happen: Sermons for Advent and Christmas by Tom Long
6.  Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben (love this book)
7.  Bin Laden's Bald Spot and Other Stories by Brian Doyle
8.  Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmer's Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm by Forrest Pritchard.  (Top 10 book of 2016)
9.  The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts of the Ministerial Life by Craig Barnes
10.  Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape: Vermont's Champlain Valley and New York's Adirondacks by Bill McKibben
11.  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer (top 10 book of 2016)
12.  The Passion of Revernad Nash by Rachel Basch (a pastor in New England who rides a bike, what's not to love)
13.  In the Company of Christ: A Pilgrimage through Holy Week by Benedicta Ward
14.  New Vision for the Long Pastorate by Roy Oswald
15.  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (got free at the Fosdick Preaching Lectures at Augsburg College)
16.  Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph (top 10 book of 2016)
17.  The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by Dr. William J. Barber and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove (top 10 book of 2016)
18.  Composting: How to Plan, Build, and Maintain Your Own Compost System for Healthy and Vibrant Gardens
19.  Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Garden Method by Joel Karsten I thought this book was goofy until I read it, great technique which I adopted this year.
20.  Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (I can see the scenes everytime I close my eyes)
21.  Just Ride: A Radical Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen great book.
22.  In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey by Samuel Fromartz (top 10 book of 2016)
23.  Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (top 10 book of 2016)
24.  The Second Journey by Charles Foster
25.  Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist
26.  My Bread by Jim LaHey
27.  Booth graphic novel
28.  Jewelweed by David Rhodes
29.  The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (scariest and most prescient book fo 2016)
30.  Appalachia: The Voice of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant
31.  The Book of Job by Stephen Mitchell. (Great translation)
32.  My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout - God I love this woman.
33.  The Pilgrimage by Paula Coello (weird by neat)
34.  The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation (last McKibben book of 2016)
35.  Book of Job Common English Bible translation
36.  The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks (top 10 book of 2016)
37.  Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance by Robin Meyers (another prescient book)
38.  America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis (like all Jim Wallis books there is a lot of Jim Wallis in it, but still worth the read)
39.  A Year on Henry's Farm by Terra Brickman (changed the way I grow garlic)
40.  The Making of a Sermon by Robert J. McCracken
41.The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Hear by Brian Doyle (top 10 book of 2016)
42.  The Write Stuff: Crafting Sermons that Capture and Convince (need to return that to the library) by Susan Willobee
43.  Chicago by Brian Doyle (top 10 book of 2016 simply because of Edward the Dog)
44.  Be My Witness: The Great Commission for PReachers by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle (top 10 book of 2016)
45.  The Alchemist by Paulo Coello (why all the fuss over this book?)
46.  Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax by Michael McGregor

Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year Be My Witness by McMickle
Best Fiction book of the Year:  Raymie Nightingale

The list shows me that i need to read more fiction, poetry, kid/teen books, mysteries and biographies. And more from women and people of color and foreign authors.  Lots to do, we'd better get reading.  Have at it.